Chapter 21

Miracle at the Airport

Carpenter_Systems_Comps_R6.inddAfter all this, I’m getting the sense that I haven’t been able to see the forest for the trees. Am I right? If so, is there a specific place I can go where separate systems are obvious, where I can immerse myself in the Systems Mindset?

Yes, your forest/trees analogy is spot on, and your follow-up question is a good one. You’re on your way to seeing the world more accurately. What will make this easy for you is that, and I’ve repeatedly hammered this home, the path to your enlightenment isn’t out there somewhere. It’s right here, right now. It’s in your face every moment. And that’s what makes the miracle invisible to most: They’ve taken it for granted. But you will see the systems of your life, so you will work your machinery to produce the results you desire, and be amazed at your existence. This right here, right now is the miracle, and even if you can’t quite see it yet, you’re living it as you read these words.

But having yet again said that, certain routine experiences will be especially effective at energizing your Systems Mindset.

My favorite ethereal adventure is travel. Try this: At the airport, while you’re waiting to board your plane, take a deep breath, relax, and look around. With everything that’s going on, notice that all the pieces work. For every waylaid traveler there will be a thousand others who will get through the incredibly complex maze to reach their destinations just fine. And consider all those airplanes in the sky at the same time. How many crashes of commercial airlines are there? Here’s the statistic: Less than one ten thousandth of one percent of all flights crash. That’s an incredible tally, considering the intricate assemblage of people and the complex flying machinery that must constantly challenge the incessant grip of gravity.

Consider the personnel, hardware, software, and logistics: the airport buildings, the aircraft, the maintenance and fueling of those aircraft, customer service facilities, ticketing, security, restrooms, electronic flight scheduling and displays, escalators, elevators, moving walkways, janitors, managers, shops, security personnel, pilots, and flight attendants. And this list doesn’t even scratch the surface of the total separate systems necessary to make it all work.

As you sit there alongside the other waiting passengers, quietly observing the independent processes—both visible and invisible—all in motion at the same time, you can have a magical experience. As you sit alone, watching, it will be your little transcendental secret.

And what of the scores of people sitting there waiting alongside you? I guarantee that the majority of them are not gazing in wonderment, and that’s because they don’t “get it.”

I’m enamored with auto travel, too. Think of the components of a car: the radio, door locks, cooling system, head and tail lights, exhaust treatment via catalytic converter. The engine! The turn signals, brakes, windshield wipers. Think of the transmission with its thousands of parts, and consider the tens of thousands of other separate components that work together to propel the car down the road. And while driving, note the other cars passing by, equally complex, each directed by the most incredible mechanism of all: a human body, in turn directed by a human brain. Then there is the highway system and all its intricacies. Wow!

Yes, the Southern California freeway is also one of my favorite ethereal adventures.

And think about trains. Stand by the tracks as one of these beasts hurtles by. Feel the awesome power of it. I love a train for the directed-yet-careening elegance of it.

And don’t stop with human-made wonders. They pale in complexity and efficiency when compared to any aspect of nature: fields, forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, the sea, the atmosphere. Overlapping, comingling, but each separate, adding up to be the natural world we inhabit. It’s a marvel, and it’s right there in front of our faces.

Systems! Systems! Systems!

So what is the great “error of omission” of humanity? It’s that the vast majority of us don’t see the exquisiteness, the miracle. Most don’t appreciate the gift.

There are a million mechanisms and daily experiences that can be isolated and then appreciated. Traveling opens up the magic with a flourish, but you can start where you are right now. Gaze around, this moment, and think of the separate components of your life; go on to consider the commingling and the cooperation—the magnificence of the dance.

Then, explain to me how all of this is an accident, and why you would ever want to go back to your former all-is-chaos mindset. Soon your appreciation of now will be second nature.